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How to Promote your Destination to Travellers with Digital Advertising

As a travel company, it can feel like you have to do something new all the time. We explore some of the basics of promoting your destination to attract visitors with digital advertising.

Advant Technology is a digital agency that has serviced many travel brands, both private and governmental organisations.

We thought we’d share a few ideas so that you as a travel brand can take some tips we have learnt and apply them in your tourism marketing.

The Covid Pandemic’s Impact on the Travel Industry

A note on the pandemic.

The travel and tourism industry is massive, well, it used to be.

Today, we sit and wonder, will the travel and tourism sector ever be the same again?

The global tourism market has clearly been hit one of the hardest, and as a result, fewer ad dollars have flowed from the travel industry, the returns just wouldn’t be there through 2020 and 2021.

International travel is not as easy as it once was, in fact, it can be highly complicated. Business travel has also dipped as zoom meetings have become the new norm, an area that is unlikely to be as big as it once was.

Today brands need to keep their pulse on travel restrictions and do what they can to efficiently reach audiences, but a positive ROI on digital ad spend is harder, so you should really think about whether it makes sense to do any kind of paid media until things begin to open up or only promote to prospects who can travel freely to your destination.

Why should you use digital advertising?

Digital ads are easy for people to find online, they’re fast, they’re flexible, and they give you access to huge audiences across search engines, social media platforms and video sites.

They also allow us as marketers to be creative with our content by using different types of formats such as images or videos, which are great for storytelling.

Digital advertising will allow you to reach people at the perfect time with the right message – all based on your traveller’s location, intent and interests.

You can attract new travellers by showing prospects your destination in a way that is relevant to them. It will help you increase your brand awareness amongst prospective customers who may not be searching for a destination at all or, on the other hand, they may be actively looking for their next holiday (in-market audiences).

Who is responsible for country marketing?

The role of a DMO, aka Destination Marketing Organisation, is to get tourist traffic across the regions by implementing a range of marketing strategies sustainably.
As a DMO your task is to encourage visitors to come to the subject country and provide them with any relevant information about the region.

Why is country marketing important?

Successful country marketing can greatly benefit the local tourism industry, including restaurants, entertainment sites, hotels, airlines, local transportation, car rental firms, tour operators, and other sectors. This increases spending in your country, helping boost the economy and allowing you to share your great culture with potential visitors.

I’m a country or destination marketer. Where do I start?

The first way you can increase your chances of success is to identify the ideal traveller for you.

Keep the target audience front and centre

Remember, your ideal traveller is someone who will spend the most in the areas of the country where you want to increase tourism. Potential visitors should:

  • Spend more nights in your destination
  • Spend more per day
  • Be eco friendly
  • Spend time and money in areas with lower tourism

Begin by understanding how they travel, what they value and where they’re most likely to be spending time online, this will allow you to tailor your marketing campaigns specifically for them.

Be specific about your target audience

Finding out which platforms are being used by your target market is also helpful. According to ComScore, the top digital ad tech platforms by the unique audience at least once per month were Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and Google Search.

As a DMO, you should also have a deep understanding of the decision-making process, in normal B2C marketing, this is called the purchase funnel, but as DMOs do not sell anything directly, the process is slightly different.

By implementing a proper buyer journey research and analysis of your buyer, you will better understand the 5 stages of decision making they go through before making a purchase.

From here, you can map the digital channels to the stages of buying and then create a messaging framework.

Different messages, different channels for different stages of the funnel, each with different objectives and KPIs.

Travel Decision-Making Process
Travel Decision-Making Process

Travel decision-making process – Identify critical moments on the booking journey

Understanding the travel customer experience is essential to marketing professionals in the travel/tourist sector.

  1. Dreaming: Who doesn’t love to dream about where they’d like to travel next? Creating informative and inspiring content to help inspire them to start planning their next trip! KPIs include reach, impressions, viewability.
  2. Researching: In this stage, travellers will be gathering as much information as possible. They want the best deal for their money, so it pays to have. KPIs in digital advertising include: Clicks, CPCs and dwell time.
  3. Planning: This is where travellers could use your help! You can provide them with all the information they need to plan their perfect adventure. KPIs include: Clicks, CPCs and dwell time.
  4. Booking: You’re now in the money! Now that your traveller knows where they’re going, they need to find somewhere to sleep. KPIs include Average Order Value, Average Conversion Rate.
  5. Experiencing: When they arrive at your destination, you want them to have the most memorable experience! You can achieve this by providing engaging experiences tailored to their specific wants and needs.
  6. Sharing: Travellers want to share their extraordinary experiences with friends and family. Driving organic sharing is excellent because it’s totally free branding. KPIs include Reach, Average Shares.

Know which devices they use and when

The trip booking process often takes many touchpoints across desktop devices and mobile devices. Consumers will switch between devices during different stages of the buyer journey. So make sure to get a deep understanding of those touchpoints so you can plan how you will use the content online to maximise the effectiveness of your tourism marketing strategy.

Digital Marketing Channels to Use When Promoting a DMO
Digital Marketing Channels to Use When Promoting a DMO

Digital marketing channels to use when promoting a DMO

By understanding your target audience and the channels they are using, you can create targeted campaigns that will inspire travellers to start planning their next trip.
We’ve distilled a few options that you might want to try, in order to inspire travellers to start planning their trip to your destination.

  1. DIGITAL OUT OF HOME: You don’t need to limit yourself to traditional forms of advertising like billboards or bus ads– try something creative and give programmatic Digital Out of Home a go.
  2. VIDEO CONTENT: Video is a highly engaging form of content, so it makes sense that we use it in our marketing. With video, you can show people who you are and what makes your country great, do this by focusing on experiences.
  3. ADVERTISE ON NEWS SITES: Online advertising is a great way to tell your audience that you exist and can be done at scale using programmatic advertising. We’ve seen far greater reach and engagement with programmatic ads than social media. Don’t just use the same old ads on all of your platforms. Tailor each ad to a specific platform and demographic, so you’re sure you get the most return for your buck!
  4. BUY ADS ON SOCIAL NETWORKS: Social media sites are great places to post ads. They provide reach, engagement and excellent targeting.
  5. BUY ADS ON TRAVEL SITES: Travel sites like Kayak, Expedia and TripAdvisor are all great places to buy online ads for your business. It’s also worth signing up to Google Adwords so you can post ads on other platforms like YouTube or Gmail.
  6. TRY CONNECTED TV ADS: This is an especially great idea for DMOS who want a more immersive digital format. What about programmatic audio ads? Heard of those?
  7. ONLINE ADS IN MOBILE APPS: Showing your ads in mobile apps helps you get in front of an on-the-go audience that are constantly using their devices for entertainment and information.

What creative should I use?

Depending on the audience you want to reach, you might use different types of creativity. Gone are the days of showing a couple of travellers laying on a pretty beach, today travellers are looking for memorable experiences.

Here are some ideas:

  1. VISUAL: Creative is a must for digital advertising because it grabs people’s attention quickly and effectively! The more engaging your ad, the better.
  2. VIDEOS: Video is a must for digital advertising because it grabs people’s attention and can be used to give all kinds of information about the destination informing your target audience in a short amount of time. You can show potential customers exactly what it’s like to experience your destination, which could just be the thing they’re looking for.
  3. EMOTIVE STORYTELLING: Don’t just sell yourself – give your potential travellers a taste of what they can expect and why they should visit you!
  4. HUMOUR: Of course a little light-hearted fun is always good for engagement and branding.
  5. RIVETING STORIES: Sharing stories can help to show personality.

Can I use UGC (User Generated Content)

100% as long as you have permission.

Sometimes UGC feels more organic and authentic, which will help you build trust. Look for hashtags from people who post content from your destination. Ask permission to use the content, and get the original high-resolution video and files.

Digital Ad Metrics to Monitor
Digital Ad Metrics to Monitor

How do I measure success?

Measure your ROI ! That’s how.

The bottom line is, you want to know if the money you’re spending on digital ads is worth it or not, so use those metrics! Here are some metrics you can monitor:

CLICK-THROUGH RATE: How many people click through to your website after seeing an ad? The higher the CTR, the better.

WEBSITE VISITORS: How many visits did you receive as a result of an online ad?

ENGAGEMENT: How engaged is your audience? Are they watching your video, or reading your blog?

IMPRESSIONS: How many times was your ad displayed to a person online?

SOCIAL SHARING: How often is your content shared on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? More shares equal more brand awareness!

REACH: How does your ad reach target audiences? Is it young people, older people, families? Knowing this helps you better understand which kinds of ads work best with different people.

BRAND RECOGNITION AND AWARENESS: Have people heard of your brand? Have they seen your ads? High brand awareness can literally translate into revenue for you! Perform a brand research study before, during and after.

PPC IMPRESSION SHARE: How high is your share of ad impressions?

BRAND RECALL: When you’re advertising, do people know it’s coming from you, did they remember your ad and did it help to drive consideration?

VIDEO COMPLETION RATE: How much of your video was watched? The higher number, the better.

There’s a lot involved in measuring success, and it can seem overwhelming at first, but that’s what we’re here for! We’ve developed an extensive set of metrics to help you measure everything from social media engagement, website traffic and opt-in rates so you can optimise your digital ads and see what works best with your target audience.

Should I focus on brand recall or brand consideration?

Focus on brand awareness and consideration for your destination marketing efforts. Consider that you’ll want to focus on different goals at different stages of the buyer journey.

Branding Objectives

Brand recall: basically reflecting how well a consumer can recognise and identify a brand or product from seeing or hearing an ad, logo, name etc.

Advertising consideration: this one is more difficult to achieve. This is when an individual has taken the time to consider your destination before they do their next vacation or holiday.

Your goal should be to get your message out there in a way that stands out from the noise and establishes brand recall.

To do this, you should focus on building a better last impression. Here’s how:

  1. Don’t have a generic ad that could be from any other company in the world. Use pictures and images unique to your destination/destination marketing organisation.
  2. Make sure all of your ads include a logo or brand name. Having your logo in an ad is more important than the picture you use.
  3. After people see your ad, remind them about you again. Use catchy call-to-action headings that will stick in their mind, and then run a new ad with that heading and logo or brand name.
  4. To build familiarity with your brand, use the same logo or visual across all of your ads. You can even create a colourful background that makes you stand out against other advertisers.
Digital Advertising for Travel Brands and Organizations Word Cloud
Digital Advertising for Travel Brands and Organizations Word Cloud

Conclusion

There are many digital advertising tools out there, but not all of them will work for your destination.

You should pick the ones that best suit your goals and target audience. Remember- the more you test, the better chance you get results!

We are experts in travel marketing, having worked with Destination Canada, Cyprus Tourism Organisation, Tunisia National Tourism Organisation, Greece National Tourism Organisation and many other national and local tourism organisations.

If you are a travel brand or a country or destination marketer and need help creating a digital ad campaign, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us your RFP, and we’ll respond with a well-crafted media plan.

Whilst Advant Technology is headquartered in the UK, but we help brands globally, so don’t be afraid to ask us if we can help you in your target market.

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